Latest F1 news in brief – Tuesday

  • After getting egg on its face again, F1 is learning
    After getting egg on its face again, F1 is learning

    F1 'has learned' from qualifying debacle

  • Berger, Coulthard doubt Ferrari can win title
  • Haryanto beat Vandoorne 'head to head' – Campos
  • Rosberg plays down expiring contract
  • Alonso in China for F1 return bid
  • Bottas to keep approach despite Hamilton crash
  • Little 'synergy' with Red Bull now – Toro Rosso
  • Expect pitstops by lap five in China – Lowe
  • Pirelli expects varied strategies to continue
  • Grosjean: Still 'huge potential' to unlock
  • Wolff: 'Zero room for error' at Mercedes

F1 'has learned' from qualifying debacle
(GMM) Claire Williams thinks F1 has learned from the 'musical chairs' qualifying debacle.

F1's governing body announced late on Monday that the World Motor Sport Council rubber-stamped by 'e-vote' the decision to revert to the 2015 format ahead of this weekend's Chinese grand prix.

Williams, the Grove team's deputy, suggested the episode has been both good and bad for the sport.

"You don't want to play out scenarios like that in the public arena," she said.

"(But) I do think we have learned that we need to take more time to consider the proposals that come to us," Claire added.

It is a tumultuous time politically for F1, with many experts suspecting qualifying got pulled into a wider power struggle.

"My theory is that this is a political move from whatever the source is to destabilize the F1 strategy group," former F1 driver Stefan Johansson said on his blog.

"I think the ultimate goal is to get rid of it or break it up somehow," he added.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has alleged repeatedly that the democratic system of voting in modern F1 is now badly damaging the sport.

He has said the powerful manufacturers, Mercedes and Ferrari, effectively control F1 because their engine clients usually toe the line in the voting processes.

"Absolutely not," Claire Williams hit back on Monday, as the British team announced a small profit for 2015.

But F1 veteran Gerhard Berger says what has become clear over the past weeks and months is that F1's democratic processes are not working.

"The interests of all the different sides are just too different," he told Germany's Sky.

Ferrari cannot beat the superior Mercedes juggernaut
Ferrari cannot beat the superior Mercedes juggernaut

Berger, Coulthard doubt Ferrari can win title
(GMM) Two former F1 drivers do not think Ferrari is ready to beat Mercedes to the world championship.

"No," Gerhard Berger, a 10-time grand prix winner and former team boss, told Germany's Auto Bild emphatically.

"The gap Mercedes had at the end of last year was just too big — Ferrari can't catch it up this quickly," he predicted.

David Coulthard agrees that, notwithstanding the fact Ferrari is obviously closer so far in 2016, Mercedes will surely maintain the edge this season.

"I expect them to win the championship again this year," the former McLaren and Red Bull driver, now a respected British television pundit, told Laureus.

"To dominate I think is going to be difficult, I do think Ferrari will keep them on their toes, but I do see the championship battle to be between the two Mercedes drivers," Coulthard added.

To that end, he thinks early leader Nico Rosberg finally has a good chance of beating reigning triple world championship Lewis Hamilton to the crown.

"The statistics say that every driver who has won five races in a row will be world champion. It would be a shame if Nico Rosberg breaks that run," he said.

Hamilton, however, is notably upbeat, insisting he remains in championship-winning form despite not winning in Australia and Bahrain.

"Hopefully this race (China) can be the turning point," the Briton said on Monday.

Shanghai could be an interesting strategic battle.

Rosberg has selected more soft tires to use throughout the weekend than Hamilton, while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has put more super-softs in the luggage.

"Every team is bound to want to qualify on the super-soft," said Mercedes' Paddy Lowe, "but if it grains in the race, we could see cars stopping in the first five laps.

"There will be plenty of analysis to do on Friday," he added.

What is Adrian Campos smoking?
What is Adrian Campos smoking?

Haryanto beat Vandoorne 'head to head' – Campos
(GMM) Rio Haryanto's former boss has hit back at suggestions the Indonesian is a straightforward F1 'pay driver'.

A common analysis is that while the Mercedes-backed Pascal Wehrlein is effectively at Manor on merit, it is Indonesian Haryanto's state-fueled dollars that are powering his own 2016 debut.

But driving for former F1 driver Adrian Campos' GP2 team last year, Haryanto finished fourth overall and beat eventual champion Stoffel Vandoorne in a couple of notable races.

"He is a guy who has measured himself against Vandoorne and beaten him twice," Campos told Spain's El Confidencial newspaper.

"Vandoorne is one of a kind; everyone in this world accepts that the Belgian is something else. But Rio is on the only one that beat him in a fight head to head."

So Campos says it is wrong to simply surmise that the Indonesian government is powering Haryanto's rise to F1.

"He comes with the support of a sponsor, but he's not a pay-driver. Maldonado is, but not Rio," said Campos.

Mercedes is making Rosberg the 2016 F1 champion, then they will re-sign him
Mercedes is making Rosberg the 2016 F1 champion, then they will re-sign him

Rosberg plays down expiring contract
(GMM) Claire Williams has tipped the F1 paddock to host a fascinating driver 'silly season' this year.

Seats at multiple top teams, including Williams but also Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault and McLaren, will potentially be up for grabs for 2017.

The most sought after will arguably be Nico Rosberg's spot at the title-winning silver team, but the German insists he is not worried.

"My contract is not something that is in my mind at the moment," he is quoted by the Daily Star. "Why should it be? I am very comfortable here.

"We have a great relationship and I will be here for some time to come, for sure," Rosberg insisted.

But Claire Williams, the deputy boss at the Grove based team, is predicting a tumultuous 'silly season' up and down the grid.

"It's going to be an interesting game of musical chairs for everybody because there are so many drivers who are out of contract," she said on Monday.

"There are going to be opportunities for us as a team, based on many considerations," added Williams, who currently fields Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. "It's a decision we'll take when the time is right."

Will Alonso pass his physical this time?
Will Alonso pass his physical this time?

Alonso in China for F1 return bid
(GMM) Fernando Alonso is already in Shanghai as he bids to return to F1 action this weekend.

On social media, the Spaniard has posted several messages from the sprawling Chinese city, including a cartoon depicting him frantically exercising amid the backdrop of his McLaren-Honda.

"Working. Projects," another Instagram photo posted by Alonso, depicting Shanghai's streets, read.

But whether FIA doctors will give him the green light on Thursday, or usher Stoffel Vandoorne back into Alonso's cockpit, is not clear.

AS newspaper, a well-connected Spanish sports daily, said the 34-year-old has improved since Bahrain but still has a broken ninth rib.

"Alonso has travelled to China with his two physios, Edo Bendinelli and Fabrizio Borra, with a specific recovery plan for this Shanghai race," read the report.

"He is now fully recovered from the pneumothorax (collapsed lung), which AS has learned was the main reason for him not racing in Bahrain," correspondent Manuel Franco added.

Bottas doesn't care who he takes out
Bottas doesn't care who he takes out

Bottas to keep approach despite Hamilton crash
(GMM) Valtteri Bottas insists he will not alter his racing style, even though he crashed with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain.

The Finn had to serve a drive-through and see two penalty points added to his super-license after colliding with Mercedes' Hamilton at the race start.

Bottas laughed when asked by Finland's Iltalehti newspaper if he had spoken about the issue with Toto Wolff.

Wolff is not only Hamilton's boss at Mercedes, but also Bottas' manager.

"Yes, Toto commented about it, but not at all negatively," he insisted.

"There is nothing else to say about it. He knows that it was just a competitive situation," Bottas added.

Bottas said immediately after the incident that he doesn't think it warranted a penalty.

He now tells the Finnish broadcaster MTV: "I saw that there was space and went for it, and he (Hamilton) didn't see me. It happens.

"I will not change my style, of course. I will take every opportunity that I see.

"It was pretty tight and perhaps I braked a bit too late, but I think sometimes it is penalized and sometimes it is not," Bottas added.

Little 'synergy' with Red Bull now – Toro Rosso
(GMM) Toro Rosso technical chief James Key says there is no longer much 'synergy' between the Faenza based team and the senior Red Bull outfit.

In the past, although Haas has now allied strongly with Ferrari, the rules allowed a closer collaboration between senior and junior teams.

"There are certain areas where there were synergies," Key told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. "In 2014 we had the same (Renault) engine, and same gearbox internals and hydraulics."

But the situation has changed. Tighter rules meant Toro Rosso had to design the entire car separately to Red Bull, and the two teams no longer even share an engine supplier.

"Our cars are totally different in concept," Key explained.

"The rules require that each team develops its own aerodynamics. And that determines the majority of the rest of the car. Now we even have different engines so the cross-over between the two cars is very low."

He said Toro Rosso and Red Bull went their separate ways technically because of the rules regarding aerodynamic synergies.

"I don't know what Red Bull is doing," revealed Key.

"For example, I have no idea how their front wing works. Therefore, it was logical that we have drifted apart in terms of the car philosophy.

"You can see at a glance that it is really two totally different cars," he added.

Paddy Lowe
Paddy Lowe

Expect pitstops by lap five in China – Lowe
Mercedes executive technical director Paddy Lowe feels Formula 1 drivers will be forced to pit inside the opening five laps in this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

Tire supplier Pirelli has retained its choice of medium, soft and super-soft compounds for China, the same as it offered in Australia and Bahrain. Lowe feels the nature of the track means the super-soft is unlikely to last as long as it did at Melbourne's Albert Park or Sakhir.

"The Shanghai circuit places an entirely different duty on tires relative to Melbourne and Bahrain," said Lowe. "However, we have the same three compounds available, so it will be interesting to see how the competitive order plays out.

"It's the first time we'll see the super-soft compound used at this track, thanks to the new regulations, and that will likely create a more extreme example of what we saw in Bahrain, where the best qualifying tire is unlikely to be a great race tire.

"Every team is bound to want to qualify on the super-soft, but if it grains in the race, we could see cars stopping in the first five laps."

Lowe's analysis highlights one of the reasons why Mercedes has opted for fewer sets of the super-softs on this occasion, compared to its rivals.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, although on different tire strategies in terms of the number of sets of medium and softs they have apiece, have just five sets of super-softs each – only the Sauber and Manor drivers have less.

Lowe added: "There will be plenty of analysis to do on Friday and we could see some interesting calls on qualifying and race strategy.

"What makes this all the more difficult for the teams is the unpredictability of the conditions.

"It can be quite warm in Shanghai, but it can also be as cool as Belgium. "That variability can make life tricky in terms of both set-up and strategy work, so it's always a challenging weekend."

Pirelli expects varied strategies to continue
Paul Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport Director, expects the varied race strategies seen during the first two rounds of the season to continue when the paddock arrives in China this weekend.

For 2016, each driver is given 13 dry-weather sets per event, with Pirelli allocating two sets for the race (only one must be used), and a set of the softest compound, only for use in Q3.

Drivers can select any combination of the chosen compounds for the other 10 sets.

A range of different compound selections were made for Australia and Bahrain, with strategies converging throughout each race, and Hembery is hopeful of more excitement at Shanghai.

"China is a very different type of circuit to the two that we've visited this year, yet the tire nomination is the same, which underlines the adaptability of our product under a wide range of circumstances," he said.

"Shanghai is also likely to be quite a cool race, although the nature of the place means that anything is possible, so teams will have to keep an open mind on strategy and carefully correlate the data captured in practice to the eventual race conditions.

"The three compounds selected have led to a number of different tactical permutations up to now, and we expect an ample variety of strategies once more in China."

Pirelli's 2016 tire choices so far:

Australia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Bahrain – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
China – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Russia – Super Soft / Soft / Medium
Spain – Soft / Medium / Hard
Monaco – Ultra Soft / N/A / N/A
Canada – Ultra Soft / Super Soft / Soft
Azerbaijan – Super Soft / Soft / Medium

Grosjean says there's more to come
Grosjean says there's more to come

Grosjean: Still 'huge potential' to unlock
Romain Grosjean says that there is still "huge potential" for Haas to unlock with its maiden VF-16 chassis, after impressively taking back-to-back top six finishes at the Australian and Bahrain Grands Prix.

Grosjean rose up the order during a dramatic season opener to place sixth in Australia, and used an aggressive tire strategy – centered on the Super Soft rubber – to claim fifth in Bahrain.

Grosjean is eager to see just how far the outfit's first Formula 1 car will go.

"I think there's still huge potential that we haven't unlocked in the car, which is great," said Grosjean.

"It's certainly a lot of fun for all the guys and myself. We're looking forward to doing more.

"Having aggressive strategies gives you some good opportunities. Again, in China, we have some aggressive tire options, so hopefully they will work as well as they did in Bahrain."

Grosjean is also looking forward to trialing Haas first batch of upgrades.

"Now it's going to be our challenge to keep up with the big boys," he said.

"We've had a good start and have a good baseline. Of course, as a driver, I want more performance.

"I think there are a few more parts coming in China and then a few more after that. I'm very much looking forward to trying the first updates to see if they're working as they should.

"We're not 100 per cent with the car yet, so there are still a few things we can do without the updates."

Toto Wolff wants Mercedes to win every race and drive more fans away
Toto Wolff wants Mercedes to win every race and drive more fans away

Wolff: 'Zero room for error' at Mercedes
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff reckons Ferrari's performances at the first two rounds of the season have highlighted that there is "zero room for error" at his team.

Although Mercedes holds a 50-point lead over Ferrari after the Australian and Bahrain Grands Prix, the Silver Arrows have been pushed hard, particularly in race trim.

Sebastian Vettel led a large part of the season opener before a strategic error scuppered his efforts, while Kimi Räikkönen split Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton last time out.

In addition, Räikkönen retired in Australia, and Vettel failed to start in Bahrain.

"After two races, we find ourselves in a strong position," Wolff commented.

"Our car has proven itself to be competitive in a range of [track/weather] conditions once again – but also reliable even at this early stage, which is a tremendous achievement.

"But there is a long way to go and we have by no means been flawless in every area so far. With Ferrari increasingly breathing down our necks, as we saw in Bahrain, there is zero room for error.

"Remaining energized is now more important than ever – and we all have plenty to keep us on our toes."

Wolff is also intrigued by the fight between his two drivers, with Rosberg sitting 17 points clear of Hamilton after notching up back-to-back victories in Australia and Bahrain.

"With just two races down and 19 to go, I wouldn't say there is momentum on one side or the other," commented Wolff, referring to Rosberg and Hamilton's intra-team battle.

"But what is clear – and very exciting for the team and the sport – is that we have two drivers high in confidence who will provide us with plenty of entertainment over the coming months."

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